Released by the Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism
May 21, 2002
In 2001, South Asia remained a central point for terrorism directed against the United States and its friends and allies around the world. Throughout the region, Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs) committed several significant acts of murder, kidnapping and destruction, including the vicious 13 December attack on India's Parliament. The September 11 attacks focused global attention on terrorist activities emanating from Afghanistan, which became the first military battleground of the war on terrorism. Coalition military objectives in Afghanistan were clear: 1) destroy al-Qaida and its terrorist infrastructure in Afghanistan; 2) remove the Taliban from power; and 3) restore a broadly representative government in Afghanistan. All countries in South Asia have strongly supported the Coalition effort against terrorism. The challenge from here is to turn that support into concrete action that will, over time, significantly weaken the threat posed by terrorists in and from the region.
Some clear and important signs of fresh thinking are already apparent. After September 11, Pakistan's President, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, made significant changes to Pakistan's policy and has rendered unprecedented levels of cooperation to support the war on terrorism. Pakistan not only broke its previously close ties with the Taliban regime but also allowed the US military to use bases within the country for military operations in Afghanistan. Pakistan sealed its border with Afghanistan to help prevent the escape of fugitives and continues to work closely with the United States to identify and detain fugitives. Musharraf also has taken important steps against domestic extremists, detaining more than 2,000 including Jaish-e-Mohammed leader Maulana Masood Azhar.
In Sri Lanka, there are fragile indications of a possible peaceful settlement to the decades-old conflict between the Sri Lankan Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). In 2001, the LTTE was responsible for the devastating attack on the colocated international and military airports north of Colombo. In December, however, the LTTE and the Government of Sri Lanka established a cease-fire brokered by Norway. The United States continues to support the Norwegian Government's facilitation effort and its focus on helping to bring about a negotiated settlement of the conflict. Despite the possibility of positive change, the US will continue to maintain the LTTE on its Foreign Terrorist Organization List until the group no longer poses a terrorist threat.
After years of ignoring calls from the international community to put an end to terrorist activities within its borders, the Taliban, which controlled most Afghan territory, became the first military target of the US-led coalition against terrorism. During the first three quarters of 2001, Islamic extremists from around the world-including North America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Central, South, and Southeast Asia-used Afghanistan as a training ground and base of operations for their worldwide terrorist activities. Senior al-Qaida leaders were based in Afghanistan, including Usama Bin Ladin, wanted for his role in the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania as well as for his role in the 1998 US Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. The al-Qaida leadership took advantage of its safehaven in Afghanistan to recruit and train terrorists, to manage worldwide fundraising for its terrorist activity, to plan terrorist operations, and to conduct violent anti-American and antidemocratic agitation to provoke extremists in other countries to attack US interests and those of other countries. This was punctuated by the horrendous attacks on the United States in September. The attacks brought a forceful military response from the US and the international Coalition. Our war against the Taliban and al-Qaida has been very successful, and Afghans now serve side-by-side with US and other Coalition forces in military operations to eliminate the remnants of Taliban and al-Qaida fighters in the country.
In a UN-sponsored process in Bonn, Germany, Afghans representing various factions agreed to a framework that would help Afghanistan end its tragic conflict and promote national reconciliation, lasting peace, and stability. Included in the text of the Bonn agreement that established Afghanistan's Interim Authority was a promise by the international community to help rebuild Afghanistan as part of the fight against terrorism. In turn, in January 2002 the international community pledged $4.5 billion in assistance to the people of Afghanistan to help them recover from the ravages of Taliban rule.
After taking power in 1996, the Taliban regime in Afghanistan operated one of the most repressive and abusive regimes in the world. By 2001 the regime controlled approximately 90 percent of the country and was engaged in a war for the remaining territory with the Northern Alliance, which had previously governed the country and was still recognized by most nations and the United Nations as the legitimate government.
Taliban-controlled Afghanistan became a major terrorist hub, a training ground and transit point for a network of informally linked individuals and groups that have engaged in international militant and terrorist acts throughout the world. Usama Bin Ladin and al-Qaida terrorists provided the Taliban with training, weapons, soldiers, and money to use in its war to defeat the Northern Alliance. The Taliban in turn provided safehaven and logistical facilities to al-Qaida.
The United Nations Security Council imposed sanctions on the Taliban in December 2000 for its failure to stop providing training and support to international terrorists, to turn over Usama Bin Ladin to face justice, and to close terrorist camps in Afghanistan.
The sanctions obliged member states to:
The United States repeatedly warned Taliban officials that they would be held responsible for any terrorist attacks undertaken by Bin Ladin as long as he remained in Taliban-controlled territory. In the wake of the September 11 attacks, President Bush warned: either hand over Bin Ladin and his associates or share their fate. The Taliban chose the latter. They were driven from power in the first few weeks of Operation Enduring Freedom.
India was itself a target of terrorism throughout the year but unstintingly endorsed the US military response to the September 11 attack and offered to provide the US with logistic support and staging areas. To address internal threats, the Indian cabinet approved in October an ordinance granting sweeping powers to security forces to suppress terrorism. Since then, at least 25 groups have been put on the Indian Government's list of "terrorist organizations" and declared "unlawful." The Union Home Ministry asked all other ministries to create a centralized point for sorting Government mail after a powder-laced letter was discovered in late October at the office of the Home Minister. The Ministry also deployed additional security forces to guard important installations following a suicide attack in October on an Indian Air Force base in the Kashmir Valley. The security posture was significantly upgraded, including large-scale mobilization of Indian Armed Forces, following the attack in December on India's Parliament.
Security problems associated with various insurgencies, particularly in Kashmir, persisted through 2001 in India. On 1 October, 31 persons were killed and at least 60 others were injured when militants detonated a bomb at the main entrance of the Jammu and Kashmir legislative assembly building in Srinagar. The Kashmiri terrorist group Jaish e-Mohammed claimed responsibility for the attack. On 13 December an armed group attacked India's Parliament in New Delhi. The incident resulted in the death of 13 terrorists and security personnel. India has blamed FTOs Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and Jaish e-Mohammed for the attack and demanded that the Government of Pakistan deal immediately with terrorist groups operating from Pakistan or Pakistan-controlled territory. India also faced continued violence associated with several separatist movements based in the northeast. (On 22 January 2002, armed gunmen fired on a group of police outside the American Center in Kolkata, (Calcutta), killing four and wounding at least nine. The investigation of this attack is ongoing. Although no US citizens were injured, Indian police have indicated that the American Center was deliberately chosen. One US contract guard was injured in the assault.)
The Indian Government continued cooperative bilateral efforts with the United States against terrorism, including extensive cooperation between US and Indian law-enforcement agencies. The US-India Counterterrorism Joint Working Group-founded in November 1999-met in June 2001 in Washington and January 2002 in New Delhi and included contacts between interagency partners from both governments. The group agreed to pursue even closer cooperation on shared counterterrorism goals and will reconvene in Washington in summer 2002.
Nepal was an early and strong supporter of the Coalition against global terrorism and of military operations at the onset of Operation Enduring Freedom, agreeing to allow access to their airports and airspace.
Like India, Nepal was more a target of terrorism-primarily from indigenous Maoist revolutionaries- than a base for terrorism against the United States. The indigenous Maoist insurgency now controls at least five districts, has a significant presence in at least 17 others, and at least some presence in nearly all the remaining 53 districts. Until recently, the Government used the police to address the increase in Maoist activity, but elements of the Nepalese Army were being deployed in July 2001.
Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba came to power in July pledging to resolve the conflict through a negotiated peace. The Government and the Maoists agreed to a cease-fire and held three rounds of talks, during which Deuba announced plans for significant social reform that addressed some of the Maoists' economic and social concerns. The Maoists ultimately walked away from the talks and the cease-fire, and on 23 November launched simultaneous nationwide terrorist attacks. The Government declared a state of emergency. In mid-2001The Maoists began expanding their operations with attacks on officials and commercial enterprises. Prospects for negotiations in the near future are very dim.
(A small bomb exploded at the Coca-Cola factory in Bharatpur, southwest of Kathmandu, the evening of 29 January 2002. The bomb caused only slight damage, and there were no injuries.) A similar device was set off at the Coca-Cola bottling plant in Kathmandu in late November. No US citizens are employed at either Coca-Cola plant.
After September 11, Pakistan pledged and provided full support for the Coalition effort in the war on terrorism. Pakistan has afforded the United States unprecedented levels of cooperation by allowing the US military to use bases within the country. Pakistan also worked closely with the United States to identify and detain extremists and to seal the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. (In February 2002, the United States and Pakistan agreed to institutionalize counterterrorism exchanges as a component of a newly created, wide-ranging Law Enforcement Joint Working Group.)
As of November, Islamabad had frozen over $300,000 in terrorist-related assets in several banks. In December President Pervez Musharraf announced to the Government a proposal to bring Pakistan's madrassas (religious schools)-some of which have served as breeding grounds for extremists-into the mainstream educational system. Pakistan also began sweeping police reforms, upgraded its immigration control system, and began work on new anti-terrorist finance laws.
In December, Musharraf cracked down on "anti-Pakistan" extremists and, by January 2002, Pakistani authorities had arrested more than 2,000 including leaders of the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LT), and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JEM), both designated as Foreign Terrorist Organizations-as well as the Jamiat Ulema-I-Islami (JUI), a religious party with ties to the Taliban and Kashmiri militant groups. Pakistani support for Kashmiri militant groups designated as Foreign Terrorist Organizations waned after September 11. Questions remain, however, whether Musharraf's "get tough" policy with local militants and his stated pledge to oppose terrorism anywhere will be fully implemented and sustained.
Sri Lanka declared support for US-led military action in Afghanistan following the September 11 attacks and welcomed US resolve to root out terrorism wherever it exists. On 1 October the Government of Sri Lanka issued a statement of support and ordered that all financial institutions notify the Central Bank of transactions by named terrorists. The Government has issued a freeze order on certain terrorist assets and has promulgated regulations to meet requirements under UNSCR 1373. Colombo has taken measures since September to strengthen domestic security such as posting extra security forces at sites that may be particularly vulnerable to attack and acceding to the Convention on Plastic Explosives—a weapon favored by domestic terrorists.
In early 2001 the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) continued its unilateral cease-fire, begun in late 2000. In April it broke the cease-fire and resumed a high level of violence against government, police, civilian, and military targets. On 24 July the LTTE carried out a large-scale attack at the colocated military and international airports north of Colombo, causing severe damage to aircraft and installations. An LTTE attack in November killed 14 policemen and wounded 18 others, including four civilians. Also in November, LTTE members were implicated in the assassination of an opposition politician who had planned to run in December’s parliamentary elections. There were no confirmed cases of LTTE or other terrorist groups targeting US citizens or businesses in Sri Lanka in 2001.
On 24 December, the LTTE began a one-month cease-fire. Shortly thereafter, the newly elected Sri Lankan Government reciprocated and announced its own unilateral cease-fire. (In 2002, both parties renewed the cease-fire monthly and continued to work with the Norwegian Government in moving the peace process forward. On 21 February 2002, both sides agreed to a formal cease-fire accord. There have been no significant incidents of violence attributed to the LTTE since the December 2001 cease-fire. On 21 January the LTTE repatriated 10 prisoners it had been holding—seven civilians it had captured in 1998 and three military officers held since 1993. It is unknown how many other captives the LTTE continues to hold hostage.)
The United States continues strongly to support Norway’s facilitation effort and is helping to bring about a negotiated settlement of the conflict. Agreement by both sides for direct discussions is a hopeful sign. Nonetheless, given the ruthless and violent history of the LTTE (including acts within the past year), and its failure to renounce terrorism as a political tool, the United States maintains the LTTE on its Foreign Terrorist Organization List.